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February 27, 2018  |  News Category: CHS News, Levine Cancer Institute,

The effort to improve sickle cell disease care and outcomes recently got a tremendous boost. Atrium Health’s (formerly Carolinas HealthCare System’s) Levine Cancer Institute has been awarded two federal grants totaling more than $14 million to impact sickle cell care across the Southeast region.

Sickle cell disease (SCD), an inherited blood condition that results in crescent-shaped red blood cells and leads to complications like pain, organ damage and early death, affects an estimated 100,000 people in the United States –  with a third of those living in the Southeast.

With these grants, Levine Cancer Institute’s sickle cell disease enterprise will spearhead two new initiatives to bolster sickle cell outcomes. A team of dual principal investigators – Levine Cancer Institute’s Ifeyinwa Osunkwo, MD, MPH, and Georgia Southern University’s Raymona Lawrence, DrPH, MPH – will lead the effort.

“We’re excited by the impact these two grants will have on improving access to care and quality of life for persons living with sickle cell disease in our region,” says Edward Copelan, MD, Chief of Hematologic Oncology at Levine Cancer Institute.

Smoothing the Transition from Pediatric to Adult Care

Thanks to improved pediatric care, kids with SCD are living longer than ever before – but the transition from pediatric to adult-centered care brings a host of brand-new challenges. Establishing models to successfully transition these patients’ care has become a growing and critical need. One of the grants – $9.8 million from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute – will be used to support a study comparing two different interventions that can help improve transition outcomes for adolescents with sickle cell disease into adulthood.

“The study will determine the comparative benefit of virtual peer mentoring over education-based transition programming alone in decreasing emergency department visits and hospital admissions, and improving quality of life among young adults with sickle cell disease,” says Dr. Osunkwo, Medical Director of Levine Cancer Institute’s Sickle Cell Disease Enterprise.

Working Together to Improve Access to Care

The second grant – a $4.3 million grant awarded by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration – is a collaboration among investigators across eight southeastern states. This grant is focused on increasing provider knowledge about SCD and equipping them with the tools to provide evidence-based care that can be accessible to patients who live in rural areas or a distance away from an academic center.   

The EMBRACE Network (Education and Mentoring to Bring Access to CarE) includes collaborators from the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Florida. Levine Cancer Institute will serve as the administrative and data coordinating center for this regional initiative. Goals of the collaboration include:

  • Increasing the number of providers treating sickle cell patients while using evidence-based guidelines and leveraging virtual care models like telementoring and telemedicine
  • Developing strategies to improve quality of care and access by emphasizing individual and family engagement, as well as adolescent transition to adult care in a medical home

“These are exciting times,” says Dr. Osunkwo. “By collaborating with our partners to establish sustainable value-based care models for sickle cell disease, we can improve the quality of care, reduce the cost of care and enhance the patient and provider experience.”

About Atrium Health

Atrium Health, previously Carolinas HealthCare System, one of the nation’s leading and most innovative healthcare organizations, provides a full spectrum of healthcare and wellness programs throughout the Southeast region. Its diverse network of care locations includes academic medical centers, hospitals, freestanding emergency departments, physician practices, surgical and rehabilitation centers, home health agencies, nursing homes and behavioral health centers, as well as hospice and palliative care services. Atrium Health works to enhance the overall health and well-being of its communities through high-quality patient care, education and research programs, and numerous collaborative partnerships and initiatives.